FALMOUTH — Under the cover of darkness, with a steady rain soaking my shirt, I carefully looked for any sign of life. When I was convinced that I was completely alone, save for a raccoon watching me with a bewildered expression, I turned on my lantern, pulled out a measuring tape, and went to work.
I wanted to determine the distance between the Airstream trailers at AutoCamp Cape Cod, which is New England’s first Airstream hotel. To my cynical eye, the 88 Airstreams, plus 10 tents and 10 tiny houses (called X Suites), seemed to be squeezed together tightly. When I’m camping, no matter how posh the experience, I’d prefer to feel as if I have a smattering of privacy. I don’t want to hear the person in the next camper sneeze — or worse.
I began stealthily measuring the distance between trailers. The Airstreams at AutoCamp are arranged so the front of one is facing the back of another. The distance between Airstreams and the view out your window depends on how much you’re willing to spend. I measured between the standard Airstream suites. Measuring was tricky in the pouring rain, but what I managed to ascertain was that the trailers are roughly 20 feet apart, give or take (probably take). Camping experts, please weigh in. Am I being picky, or does that sound reasonable?
I had been impatiently waiting to stay at AutoCamp Cape Cod, which opened during the first week of April, ever since I first heard it was in the works. That’s two years of waiting. These Airstreams, custom made by the company for AutoCamp, are equipped with everything you need to take glamping to the next level. AutoCamp, which also has locations in California and Utah, had been teasing and taunting me by releasing glamour shots of the gleaming silver trailers with swanky, sunshine-filled interiors throughout the pandemic. If ever there was a time I wanted to stay in an Airstream hotel, it was in 2020. But I was happy to finally have an opportunity in 2021.
Enough with the teasing. I booked a premium suite, which meant my plot was slightly larger than a standard suite. I stepped inside the Airstream and fell in love. That’s love with a capital “L” and three exclamation points. This was my AutoCamp dilemma. I adored the Airstream itself, I just wasn’t crazy about the rest of the place.
The Airstream was surprisingly spacious. The bathroom was large with marble tile and a big walk-in shower. The bedroom was equipped with a queen bed and Tempur-Pedic mattress, plenty of electrical and USB outlets, and a small flat-screen TV. The main living area had a couch that folded down to a bed, a dorm-size refrigerator, a microwave/convection oven, cookware, and all the kitchen utensils and plates you’d likely need if you opted for simple cooking. There is also a French press and strong Wi-Fi. I think the Wi-Fi in my airstream was stronger than the Wi-Fi at my house.
There were a lot of nice touches in the trailer. Bluetooth speakers were built into the ceiling so I could stream music directly from my phone. There’s a closet with bathrobes, tools to use for grilling if you opt to cook alfresco, and even a boot scraper on the deck to use as you enter your camper.
All linens are supplied, however, unlike a hotel, there is no daily maid service.
A stay in these Airstreams does not come cheap. I paid $339 a night. In August the rate for the category of Airstream I booked is more than $600 a night. AutoCamp did not know a writer from the Globe was staying at the hotel, and the Globe paid full price for the stay. Like all seasonal lodging, prices are lower during the off-season, so if you’re hunting for a bargain, try January or February. Yes, AutoCamp will be open year-round.
At the Clubhouse, which serves as the hotel lobby, you can find a general store, bathrooms and showers for people staying in tents, and a very midcentury fireplace. There’s a fire pit outside the Clubhouse if you’re feeling social and want to share stories about how you’re not roughing it with your fellow Airstreamers, but each site has its own small fire pit, so there’s no need to be social if you’re looking to escape. This summer, AutoCamp is planning to have live music and yoga at the Clubhouse.
Another way to escape is to borrow a bike from AutoCamp and take a ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway, which runs directly behind the campground. AutoCamp allows you to borrow bikes, and on a nice day it’s a very easy ride to Woods Hole, or down to the Little Sippewissett Marsh and the ponds that dot the path.
This may be a good time to head back to the Airstream hotel. While you’re surrounded by nature outside of AutoCamp, you’re not surrounded by nature in the trailer park itself. There are very few mature growth trees between sites, and at this point landscaping seems minimal. There’s also that pesky issue of the trailers appearing to be very close together.
I had no first-hand issues with the proximity of the trailers during my stay. It was a chilly week in early May and the park was fairly quiet. But what will it be like Fourth of July weekend, or any other summer weekend, when AutoCamp is sold out and people are outside with all that pent-up pandemic energy whooping it up like they’re at some kind of solstice rodeo? I’m no Miss Cleo, but I predict there won’t be much serenity. If seclusion is what you’re seeking, it won’t be here. But if you’re looking for a quirky getaway or things to post on your Instagram feed to make you the envy of your friends, this is it.
If you’re curious or on the fence about AutoCamp, here’s my recommendation: Pick a weekend in October and try it. The crowds will have dissipated, there will be fewer people on the bike paths. Don’t worry about the cold. The heated Airstreams at the Cape Cod location were manufactured with additional insulation. There’s no such thing as roughing it here, unless you find making s’mores an arduous task.